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How the Community is Shaping Garriott’s Ultimate RPG

Garrett Fuller Posted:
Interviews 0

Last week we got the chance to sit down with Richard Garriott and go over the team’s plans for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. Richard gave us some great insight into where the game is going and also some of the amazing support he has received from the community.

When Richard and I sat down to chat about Shroud of the Avatar, we had a whole discussion on how MMOs have evolved. Richard has been making games in the same world of Ultima for over 30 years. When he finally set out to make a new RPG, it was time to create something that is a spiritual successor to that era. Shroud gives them a lot of freedom to work independently on building something for the fans. Little did Richard know how much fan support the team would receive. Currently making a big budget MMO is getting more and more difficult (thought it was never “easy”). The games cost a lot to make and there is a lot of competition out there. The success of a small start up MMO with an original IP is very difficult to achieve. Portalarium took some big risks in planning Shroud of the Avatar as both a full MMO experience, and something that could be played offline if that’s more your style.

The team decided to launch their crowdfunding efforts with some trepidation. Richard explained that everyone on the project was nervous for Kickstarter because basically you get one chance to prove that your project will be good enough to succeed. If you fail to gain funding, then that could be the end of your dream before it even took flight. He was not shy about saying there was a great joy when their project funded within ten days of their crowdfunding cycle. It gave them the minimum resources to begin deeper development and every stretch goal after that was a great help.

Richard and his team then turned to the folks at Unity to use their engine in creating SotA. The resources that Unity affords the team have been invaluable during the building of Shroud. It also offers a way for fans to get involved in the project beyond just donating money.  Richard explained just how much the community has been important in the game’s development.

To put music in the game Richard and his team were looking at a huge budget, until a group of fans got involved and created the Poet’s Circle. These bards had approached the team and asked about ways they could submit music for the game. Richard always had specific types of music in mind for his world. The old medieval themed music in the Ultima games is his favorite and he wanted something to capture that old bardic style. When you go into a tavern in a local village you should not hear an epic movie soundtrack playing. Richard wanted to capture older instruments and smaller classical songs that sound like they would be played in the corner of a tavern next to the fire. The fans of the game came back with some amazing music which immediately was added to the game. The Poet’s Circle continues to score songs for the world and now has become part of the ongoing community development process.

Another great example of how a group of fans got involved is with the heraldry on cloaks and shields. Richard has done his fair share of medieval reenactment and got in touch with some of the people who worked on heraldry for those sort of organizations. One of the Kickstarter goals for backers was to be able to design their own personal heraldry. This group of fans is helping to create a Blazon Builder in the game. This way, players will be able to create any heraldry they want for their cloaks or shields. There will be plenty of choices from classic era charges as well as some game-related symbols. This system was built by fans for the community. We sat and made several heralds with the system and Richard explained they will be adding a lot more for players to use.

As we finished our meeting, it became clear that Shroud of the Avatar is not just a game anymore. It really is a collective effort of passion. Fans, developers, and the community at large continue to build this sandbox world that we will all play and live in in the very near future. There are so many people putting forth effort into this project that it really seems to be one of the first online worlds built by developers and fans together. The game is not a finished, boxed, and neatly packaged piece of media you can just buy off the shelf, but something that will be constructed over time and continue to grow long after launch... and not just by the Portalarium devs’ hands.

Read on for more Shroud of the Avatar coverage:


Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.